6 Dec 2023

Governor-General to deliver Speech from the Throne

9:32 am on 6 December 2023
MPs at the official opening of Parliament. with the Clerk of the House presiding over the swearing in of MPs and election of the Speaker.

MPs at Tuesday's commission opening of Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The pomp and pageantry will continue at Parliament on Wednesday morning, with the delivery of the traditional Speech from the Throne.

Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro will read the speech, penned by the Prime Minister's Office, which will lay out the government's intentions for the next three years. MPs will then elect the deputy speaker and assistant speakers.

They will return to the House at 2pm for the first debate of the 54th Parliament.

It follows Tuesday's Commission Opening of Parliament, which resulted in a linguistic conundrum over a Māori translation of the name "Charles".

Te Pāti Māori MPs referred to the monarch as "Kīngi Harehare" during their swearing in, despite the oath requiring them to say "Kīngi Tiāre."

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi insisted both meanings were correct.

"Hare is another name for Charles, Harehare is another name for Charles."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones said the MPs knew exactly what they were doing.

"They are trying to make fun of the transliteration 'Hare' which, if said as 'Harehare', is kind of a transliteration of Charlie but it also means something objectionable."

Legislation said the oath or affirmation must be delivered exactly as written for an MP to be sworn in.

University of Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said while it was not picked up, other parties could challenge it if they wanted and make Te Pāti Māori MPs retake the oath.

"If an MP wanted to take issue with this and was very pedantic and said 'no, no, no you didn't use the exact right transliteration of the name Charles' they would have to raise it as a matter of privilege, which means they would have to take it to the speaker and say to the speaker, 'look there is a problem here'.

"But if the speaker agreed there really was a problem, they'd have to send it to the Privileges Committee."

Ultimately, Geddis said, it could be a problem with the oath itself.

"The fact that some dialects refer to Charles in one way, others in another, raises the question as to whether only one way of talking about him in an oath really is acceptable."

However, a statement from Clerk of the House David Wilson said there were no requirements in law or standing orders about what members may do before or after their affirmation, and unless it appeared to him that an MP was refusing to follow the requirements of the law, he accepted they were making their oath in good faith.

"If the Clerk judged that a member had taken their oath or affirmation improperly they would have been required to leave the debating chamber immediately and return to do it again on a future day. That did not occur."

Te Pāti Māori has long called for the option for MPs to swear allegiance to te Tiriti o Waitangi - a call the Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson backed up.

"Oh, it would be awesome to see the oath changed but also we realise that it's just part of the process to be able to do the business in the House, and we take the opportunity to swear on things that put Te Tiriti back into the spotlight for the Green Party as well."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was happy with how things are.

"I prefer the way that it is… now and I think that's the right way."

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